tv Washington Week With Gwen Ifill PBS March 1, 2013 8:00pm-8:30pm PST
them show us. we learned a lot of us have known someone who has lived well into their 90's. that's a great thing but one thing that hasn't changed, the official retirement age. how do you make sure you have the money you need to enjoy all of these years? >> additional corporate funding for "washington week" is provided by boeing. additional funding is provided by the annenberg foundation, the corporation for public broadcasting and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. once again, live from washington, moderator gwen ifill. gwen: good evening. there is something baffling about where we find ourselves in washington tonight. lawmakers spent the better part of the day, and the week, daring each other to meet in the town square at high noon, and when they did, neither liked the
outcome all that much. the president popped into the white house briefing room today, at times expressing frustration, other times high mindedness, but making clear who he blames for the budget standoff. >> i am not a dictator. i'm the president. so, ultimately, if mitch mcconnell or john boehner say, we need to go catch a plane, i can't have secret service block the doorway, right? and this idea that somehow there's a secret formula or secret sauce to get speaker boehner or mitch mcconnell to say, you know what, mr. president, you're right, we -- if there was a secret way to do that, i would have tried it. gwen: house speaker john boehner offered a much briefer statement as he left the white house meeting, and he was more grim. >> let's make it clear, the president got his tax on hikes on january 1.
this discussion about revenue, in my view, is over. it's about taking on the spending problem here in washington. gwen: so tonight, the much discussed $85 billion budget cut decried by economists and politicians alike takes effect. then what? david? >> we'll find out. finally we go over one of these lines in the sand. this was designed to be unworkable and uncomfortable to force congress and the president to do something else. the technical term for this is stupid. that's attributed to alan simpson and eskin bowles, the grand old men of deficit fighting. what happened here is the white house has been screaming this will be the end of the world. they have made it seem apocalyptic. republicans say it's not going to be that bad and the white house says oh, yes it will because it's so rigid, it has to be across the board. the republicans say we'll make it flexible, the president says,
that's not going to help, so here we are. the question is what happens on monday. the government will not grind to a halt on monday. this will build over time and the question is whether enough damage is done, people really being inconvenienced, people not getting benefits because they can't get through to the office, long lines at the airport, that there's pressure on congress to do something. that appears to be the president's strategy, to hope there will be pressure. gwen: if both sides hate the outcome, did both sides miscalculate? >> yeah, i think there was a lot of miscalculation here. the fiscal cliff, we didn't go over the fiscal cliff. they cut a deal, january 1. they cut a deal on the fiscal cliff. >> to raise taxes. >> to raise taxes so republicans, seven weeks ago, or whenever it was, had to raise taxes. i believe the white house miscalculated or underestimated or whatever you want to call it,
the republicans, in saying, ok, they're going to now close these loopholes which is effectively raising taxes again after they just did that seven weeks ago. i also believe that republicans could be in the process of underestimating how this could affect their standing with the public. right now they've got a 29% favorability rating. the president sits, 49%. he's gambling the public will be with him because after all he got re-elected partially on the issue of fairness. >> and he's reading the polls. >> and he's reading the polls and the republicans are saying, you know what, we're on the right side because the public believes the government should be smaller and more efficient. the problem that the republicans have is that this particular slice of the pie we're talking about is all the popular stuff. it's headstart, it's teachers,
veterans. it's a lot of stuff people care about. >> the white house figured that because this thing was written that cuts in defense were so deep, that would make sure the republicans would accept it. we had the fiscal cliff and and they never went over it but this time they went over it. they're going to do some real harm. ben bernanke and the budget office says if these cuts stick the way they're written, it will cost 750,000 jobs this year, and it's half a percentage point on the unemployment rate. now they're doing real risk to the economy. it's not theoretical anymore. >> i was wondering when it will feel and we'll know it's not theoretical because obviously the day came. >> when the lines get long at
the airport. >> and at the end of march. >> it will be a month before -- people are getting furlough notices. if you're a federal employee and get the notice that you have to take a day off every two weeks, that's pretty bad. but in terms of the public, until the layoffs actually come, but you're right, we get this thing at the end of march. gwen: let's look at how the two sides play this. i think if you're a cabinet member who has not been summoned to a podium somewhere to say how terrible this is, you should be looking for another job because they've all been out. republicans have a different view. >> and now i'm put between the rock and the hard place and i shouldn't have to go to court for congress to figure out a budget for the department of homeland security and for the federal government at large. we can do this in a balanced way. >> the president's been running around acting like the world's going to end because congress might follow through on an idea he proposed, he proposed, and
signed into law, all the while pretending he's somehow powerless to stop it. gwen: the blame game is a big part of what we saw this week and we just saw it there. >> well, the republicans are saying it's his fault, he did it. they call this the "president's sequester." they did that -- gwen: they tried to call it obama quester. >> they did that after the meeting at the white house on friday morning. and the president came out in his press conference and said this is the republican's choice, they are choosing to do this. he used the word choice and republican together a few times so it's clear the blame game is in full swing. i believe that when all of this is over, the public will look and say you know what, you guys needed to figure out, both of you children needed to figure out a way to prevent this and
stop pointing fingers at each other. gwen: this does remind me of when you're driving down the street with kids in the back seat and you tell them to stop squabbling, they say, he did it first. we don't have a lot of patience for that. >> don't make me stop the car. >> our polls show the public thinks it's a bad idea but they're divided, half want more cuts and half want fewer cuts so this will not be resolved by public opinion. >> and the reason this is different and the reason this is occurring is because when you had the fiscal cliff on january 1, democrats and republicans knew they couldn't let the taxes for everyone go up. when you had the debt ceiling problem, they knew, republicans and democrats, that the full faith and credit of the united states of america was on the line. at the end of march, they all know, you do not want to shut the government down. in this particular case, they're like, oh, we have budget cuts
here. >> i think the republicans want to have a fight on spending. >> exactly. >> but i think the point you made i disagree with slightly. you said this is the popular stuff being cut. medicare and social security are pretty popular, too. and it's the irony. the stuff driving the deficit are not subject to the cut. gwen: it seems to me there's a big issue on the table and that perhaps turn it on its head, there is secret genius behind all of this. >> i wouldn't go that far. gwen: ok, not genius, but they would never get to the point where they would think of cutting anything unless they were up against the wall and that's what we've seen, the wall. >> it's a cliche in washington that congress never acts until it's a crisis and they've been trying to manufacture crises for the last couple of years with these deadlines and this may bring them to the table. i think there's a chance after a couple of weeks of this, it looks unseemly, that well will be a group of people in the senate where there seems to be
interest in a bargain deal, that they'll come up with something, probably a short-term thing but the adults in the senate will rise to the occasion. >> there's the thing about another short-term situation, where will be the motivation to do something comprehensive? >> i don't think there is any. >> and there may not be and the problem on the revenue side is that republicans say, ok, we're willing to close these tax loopholes and think of ruiz -- revenues but only in the context of overall tax reform so the question is how do you get to tax reform and entitlement reform, do the kind of grand bargain that's been talked about, that you just hinted at, until you get over these speed bumps. gwen: but we just saw john boehner walk out and say at least we're not going to shut down the government. where did that come from? >> i think the republicans learned in the gingrich era that shutting down the government seems like a good idea but the public doesn't like it.
gwen: but there is no deal not to shut down the government. >> there's a continuing resolution which keeps the government funded through march 27 and i think the speaker is saying we're going to try to avoid having a confrontation on that, we're going to extend the spending that the low level, lower than the president wants, and figuring that the president will agree to this for the rest of the year. that's what they're saying. >> the forced spending cuts we have been talking about, that was a hint that you could resolve that issue of funding the government without first resolving this issue of the spending cuts we're going to see. gwen: did the entitlements ever get on the table? >> the president has to put some entitlements on the table. he's offered some cuts to medicare and made something unpopular with his base, changing the way they do inflation adjustments for tax brackets and social security. everybody can sketch what the
likely deal is here. it's going to be a revenue-raising tax reform that doesn't raise rates but closes loopholes or gets rid of credit somehow and does something about medicare and medicaid so i think they get on the table because at some point they'll run out of the running room on cutting the other stuff. >> i was going to ask about the president's message in the briefing room today. he brought out cabinet secretaries to say it was going to be the end of the world, the cuts would be horrific and as he stood up there he said it's not that it's the apocalypse, it's dumb. have we seen a shift in rhetoric? >> we've seen a shift because the cuts are going into effect. part of the public relations strategy early on was to say the sky is falling and push the republicans into a pootion -- position where they had to compromise and the republicans said no and dug in and now that they've dug in and we're going over the cliff it's a question of leadership and the president
has to say, ok, we can live with this for a little bit. gwen: but in the meantime, there are long-term unemployed who won't get checks and people who, perhaps, if nothing's resolved by april, will see jobs go away. there is real pain. >> absolutely right and payments to doctors and hospitals will be cut so that's right. it's going to mount slowly over time. >> and that may force them to the table. gwen: and we'll be at the table, outside the table or something. we're not done with this yet. now we go over to the supreme court. where the justices were confronted this week with a challenge to section 5 of the voting rights act of 1965. it requires certain states with a history of disenfranchisement to check with the federal government before they change election laws that could affect voter access. the arguments pitched titans of the civil rights movement against jurisdictions that say, times have changed and federal oversight has now become federal intrusion. this is one of the major cases
before the court this session, isn't it, joan? >> it's not just one of the major cases this term but could be one of the most major cases in decades because it involves this pillar of civil rights era, the 1965 voting rights act, and the section 5 is a core part of it that's been used over and over to deter southern jurisdictions mostly but other places with a history of discrimination. what it does is it requires a place that has had a history of discrimination to first clear with the federal authorities any kind of change in voting map, any kind of new voter i.d. law, anything that could possibly harm minorities. >> and polling places? >> yes and that happens a lot. we've still had cases -- the saliency of this issue was seen in the 2012 presidential election when texas voting maps were blocked, texas voter i.d. law was blocked because of this law so it's very relevant today even though the formula that's
used to designate the southern jurisdictions that fall under it traces to the 1960's and 1970's and the issue before the court was, is that formula still constitutional and singling out the right places at a time when there's violations up in the north of voting rights in different ways. >> did you get a sense? >> i can tell you that definitely the five conservatives seem strongly against this provision, feeling like it has run its course, that if there's going to be voting rights discrimination, go after it case by case where you can prove an incident rather than having certain states like alabama where the case was brought from, preclear these things but liberals really came down strong on the idea that it is from alabama where there's been so much trouble. just think of in 1965 when this measure was first enacted, it came only because of civil rights marchers in salma being beaten by state troopers. there's a lot of history in
alabama and liberal justices pounded away in that saying, essentially do you want this provision to go down in a case from alabama. >> this law passed congress 98-7 originally. gwen: reauthorized. >> so how do the conservatives on the court justify striking down something so popular. >> in activist court. >> it really does go to congress' power, congress' power to prevent discrimination and remedy violations of the 16th amendment which gave blacks the right to vote and it was passed in the senate by a 98-0 vote, passed by a lopsided margin in the house, republican dominated house, signed by george w. bush with great, huge bipartisan support over the years and justice scalia said 98-0, maybe because everybody thinks it's politically unpopular to vote against a racial measure. at one point he used the term
racial entitlement. >> i thought that was democracy. >> frankly, a lot of people drew back and i think even some of his fellow conservatives don't like that phrasing at all. gwen: in the chamber when he said that, was there an intake of breath? >> this is as loud as it gets. there is no audible gasping in the supreme court but there was, it got everybody's attention. it got so many people's attention that justice sodamire asked the lawyer for shelby county, alabama, saying, do you think racial discrimination still exists in america? >> is there possibility of middle ground here or ever in the court? >> not on this. >> and we raise the name of justice kennedy. >> justice kennedy is clearly the swing vote on this again but this is a harder case to find missed -- middle ground. 2009 when they took up the same
issue in texas, they were able to say this voting district in texas could be exempt so we're not going to reach the larger constitutional question about whether congress was within its power to reauthorize section 5. this time there is no middle ground. the most middle ground will be if they say alabama, not you. gwen: why not use section 2, that's part of the argument, use the idea that this is intentional discrimination, as a way of solving the problems when they arise. >> gwen is referring to another part of the great land mark act that says once you find the violation, you come and sue. the advocates who want section 5 to remain on the books says that time consuming, it's costly. certain jurisdictions will, once you strike down one measure, will create another way to interfere with voters and in 2012 we did see some of that. we also saw it in the north in jurisdictions that aren't covered by section 5 but we saw
plenty in the south. gwen: another issue about gay marriage and proposition 8, the effort to strike down gay marriage in california, we finally heard from the white house on this. >> that's right. the federal government wouldn't naturally be involved in the case because it's between the state, people now defending proposition 8, and challengers, same-sex couples who want to get married and the question was would the obama administration come in on the major case that might for the first time say that there's a really strong right to same-sex marriage out there or at least strike down the proposition 8 law in california and perhaps even say there's a fundamental right nationwide. >> constitutionally. >> exactly and what the said is there is a federal interest, we don't think proposition 8 should stand and we also don't think other states that have allowed civil unions should be able to say marriage, too. >> but the administration didn't go whole hog on this.
it's not that they didn't buy it although the president in his press conference seemed to buy it more than the justice department but they didn't go whole hog and say this is a right guaranteed. >> right. and that's the farthest, that's what the main challengers to prop 8 are saying, that it's a fundamental right and the administration said not yet. gwen: and the arguments are? >> 26th and 27th of march when coincides -- >> with the c.r. gwen: thank you, everyone. i'm sorry, we have to leave you a few minutes early tonight so you can take advantage of the chance to support your local pbs station which, in turn, supports us. there's so much we couldn't get to but we'll pick up where we left off in the "washington week" webcast extra. you can find us online still talking at pbs.org/washingtonweek. and while you're there, you can read my take on the sequester debate. keep up with daily developments at the pbs news hour and we'll see you next week on "washington
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